The Ernie Els Centre for Autism South Africa Newsletter – June 2017

13 Jun

Latest news from The Ernie Els Centre for Autism in SA, providing lower resourced families of children on the autism spectrum with free access to effective education for their child via e-learning programs.

1. Memorable day for students at the latest #GameON clinic
The morning of Friday 19 May is a day that 15 students from the Vera School for Autistic Learners will never forget. The iconic Pearl Valley Golf Club and its beautiful golf course hosted 15 students from the school, alongside three staff members, for one of our latest #GameON clinics. A great day was had by all. Indeed, with beautiful views, a stunning golf course, and some unseasonably warm weather, it was in all respects a perfect day.

Upon arrival, the school’s eager students and staff were greeted by Pearl Valley staff and members of the SA Golf Association, who delved straight into the rules and expectations of the day’s clinic. After a brief warm-up routine, students were then separated into three groups of five, each supervised by one of the club’s professional golfing staff. The instructor visually illustrated to their group of students the use of the golf club and the different techniques taught at each of the four designated ‘golfing stations’. Many triumphs and laughs were had during the morning, with one student proclaiming that it was “the best day ever”. That’s always music to our ears.

At the end of the day, 15 very happy and learned students left the golf course with wonderful memories having got to experience life on a golf course and learned new gross motor movements. All students enjoyed themselves tremendously, each one naturally claiming bragging rights on golf skills!

“The attitude of the students all day was a testament to the wonderful work being done at the Vera School,” commented Shani Lits, Program Director at The Ernie Els Centre for Autism. “Thank you to the students and staff for sharing this beautiful day with us. Thank you also to the SA Golf Association, Els for Autism South Africa and everyone at Pearl Valley Golf Club for your willingness to always assist us with our #GameON Clinics.”

2. 2017 welcomes new initiatives at The Ernie Els Centre for Autism 
We are excited to announce two recently introduced additional support services to better accommodate families on the spectrum requiring assistance, including new behavioural guidelines to help boost The Centre’s range of caregiving services and an additional layer of support for families unable to attend our facilities in person.

The Research Units in Behavioural Intervention (RUBI) Autism Network consists of a team of experts in the field of autism, located at five university-based medical centres in the US. For the past several years, this network has developed, studied and trained on the implementation of evidence-based behavioural interventions and measurement tools designed to improve care for families and children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Now, at The Ernie Els Centre for Autism, South Africa, we are pleased to say that our facilitators are using this manual to guide parents or caregivers on learning how to apply techniques and tools to help manage the child’s challenging behaviours.

This new coaching offers 11-17 sessions, twice per month, which pinpoints some of the greatest difficulties facing families of an individual with ASD that can interfere with the learning process. With this one-on-one training, the caregiver is coached and also provided with the tools and skills necessary to effectively and positively change a disruptive behaviour into one that is functional and socially appropriate.

In addition, given the difficulty that many families endure in having the time and the means to attend sessions at The Ernie Els Centre for Autism in either Braamfontein or Cape Town, we have established new bi-monthly general support calls. Families can contact us with specific questions or concerns and they are then coached through these with the guidance of one of our facilitators. Families utilising this form of support are encouraged to contact us when problems arise, which they feel they cannot manage effectively on their own.

Meanwhile, we have maintained our offering of Rethink First (now re-branded as RethinkED) access to families who are able to consistently work on this program by supplying recorded results and attend in-centre sessions regularly. These have been established to ensure that we are able to provide our tailored services to all families who are in need, despite difficulties these families may face on a daily basis.

“We are so excited at all the opportunities we are able to offer our families in 2017,” comments Shani Lits, Program Director at The Ernie Els Centre for Autism. “We are looking forward to sustained growth in the support of our families in 2017 and beyond!”

3. Drive to SA Open series shifts straight into top gear!
In only its second year, the Drive to SA Open series has proved incredibly successful with a succession of well-attended events taking place throughout May and June at some of South Africa’s finest golf courses, including first-time visits to Sanlameer, Namibia Omeya Estate, Zimbali and Houghton GC.

We had our first ever visit to KZN on 11 May at the Tom Weiskopf-designed Zimbali Golf Estate, a beautiful golf course currently in the top-22 of South Africa. A field of 104 players were all in for a treat, with gorgeous weather and a perfectly conditioned golf course. Sun Subaya came on board as a big sponsor; our sincere thanks go to Dan Sevel and Melville Vogel. Notable players on the day included Andre Joubert, ex-Springbok rugby player, Butch James, Springbok fly half and World Cup winner; and Professional Golfer, Adilson Da Silva. The winners were Gary Schneider and Jarred Byron on a betterball score of 48 points. Big thanks to Gavin Woodroffe and his team who made sure that everything went smoothly.

Next up on the schedule was the Jack Nicklaus-designed Pearl Valley Golf Estate in Cape Town on 19 May and there we were blessed with another absolute picture-perfect day with not a breath of wind and temperatures of 29-degrees Celsius. Again, we had a full field of 128 players. Series organiser and former Sunshine Tour winner Nico van Rensburg of the Ernie Els Group moved the tees back to yellow; perhaps the only contentious point! Still, as he rightly pointed out, if you drive a Rolls Royce you don’t change it to a Mini. Quite. In any case, scoring was very strong, with the winners, 85-year-old Buddy Woodbourne and his partner Karl Streaked, registering an amazing 49 points. Easy game!

On 25 May, it was on to Houghton Golf Club. Ernie himself had great success here earlier in his career – including a first SA Open win in 1992 – and we were lucky to continue that successful streak by hosting such an enjoyable event. Our custodians for the day were Richard Kaplan, a former Sunshine Tour player and Asian Tour winner. The day was won by Anton Botha and Morne van Rensburg with an excellent betterball score of 48 points. Thank you to everyone for a spectacular day of golf and ‘fun for a purpose’.

The next event on the Drive to SA Open schedule was at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on 1 June, the second year we’ve visited this fantastic club. Massive thanks to Imperial and Philip Michaux, who came on board as sponsor. Once again, the players enjoyed balmy winter weather in the low-20s, with many wearing shorts on the course, reminding us that Johannesburg has probably the best and most consistent weather in the world. Anyway, back to the golf. The winners on the day were Willem Loots and Francois Le Clus, with a magnificent score of 48 points.

Looking ahead, we have many more wonderful stops on the Drive to SA Open 2017 schedule, including a day at St Francis Links on the Eastern Cape on 22 June where our hosts Jeff and Liezl Clause will no doubt spoil us again with their fine hospitality. We’re then returning for a third time to Randpark Golf Club on 29 June, where we are fortunate to have SIZWE as our main sponsor. Thank you to them.

“It’s been a wonderful series so far,” says event organiser Nico Van Rensburg, “and we’re thrilled with the level of support that we’ve received from South Africa’s golfers. We’re now urging as many people to jump on board for the remainder of the series, as we move around the country raising money and awareness for Els for Autism. Remember, all winners qualify for our final at the Ernie Els-designed Highland Gate on 15-16 November. The winners there earn a spot in the SA Open Pro Am early next year. In the meantime, we give massive thanks to all the golf courses, sponsors and players who have so graciously supported us this year. We hope to see you all again soon.”

To see the full Drive to SA Open schedule of events, please visit the website: http://www.ernieelscentre4autism.co.za/events.asp.

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